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tv   CNN Newsroom Live  CNN  April 9, 2017 1:00am-2:01am PDT

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a group of u.s. navy ships is headed toward the korean peninsula, a direct response to north korean missile tests. we'll be live with the latest. also this hour, deadly air strikes target the same town that was hit by chemical weapons in syria less than a day after the u.s. bombed a syrian air base. hello everyone. we're coming to you live from beirut, lebanon. welcome to all of our viewers in the united states and all around the world. >> and i'm hannah vaughan jones for you live in london. you're watching cnn newsroom.
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is so he the united states is showing its military force now in north korea in the hopes of stopping pyongyang's nuclear threats. and american carrier strike group is currently head towards the korean peninsula, a strike group is a formation of navy as sets. it's into the usual for the u.s. to send an aircraft carrier to the region, but defense officials say this is in response to recent north korean nuclear provocations. alexander field is live in south korea, but first let's go to north korea where will ripley is the only american correspondent currently in pyongyang. we understand that the u.s. is doing this in order to try to stop pyongyang's nuclear threat. what are the chances of that being successful?
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>> reporter: the north korean officials who we're talking to on the ground here say that it is having the opposite effect. they view this as yet another provocative act by the united states after several weeks of joint military exercises with the united states in south korea, these exercises always enrage pyongyang, they feel it is a dress rehearsal for an invasion of their country. and this carrier strike group is somewhat routine, but also the air strikes that the -- the police sti missile strike that president trump ordered in syria, they point to iraq and libya and say they do not want their country to have the same fate which is why one official said that the previous u.s. administrations have been attacking those countries who haven't gotten nuclear weapons and the trump administration is no different from the previous u.s. governments in pinpointing those nonnuclear states. essentially the north korean
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regime led by kim jong-un views nuclear weapon as the ticket to their national sovereignty and analysts are saying this country could be ready to test their sixth nuclear weapon really at any moment given the provocative behavior that they feel is occurring on the united states side. don't be surprised if something happens relatively soon here in the pa gheeninsupeninsula. >> and is there much concern about what may or may not have been agreed between president xi and president trump in the last couple days in the u.s.? >> reporter: so the officials we're talking to feel that it was not a coincidence that president trump ordered that missile strike in syria while he was having dinner with chinese president xi. they view that as a threat not only to the chinese president because they want the u.s. to impose more sanctions on north korea, but they also viewed it as a threat to their country as well. because china is north korea's only meaningful trading partner and believed to provide a lot of
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the currency that this country uses to develop their nuclear weapons. but the official i was talking to said their missile program and nuclear program would be the last dithing that they cut evenf sanctions are imposed here. and when you're walking on the streets, it's surreal because just today hundreds of people including foreigners from europe and all over the world were here for the pyongyang marathon, running, smiling, high-fiving with locals cheering them on. so that is happening on the street level where at the government level tensions are certainly the highest i've seen them in 11 visits to this country. >> all right. will, thank you. alexandra field is standing by for us in soum oeoul. we're hearing the joint u.s. military drills are not unusual at all, but is this development welcomed by the south? >> reporter: certainly you would imagine that it would be because the security alliance here is very strong between the u.s. and south korea. they have had this alliance for some 60 years. you have some 30,000 u.s. troops
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who are based here in south korea for the express and direct purpose of defending south korea security interests and the interests of the region at large. what you have now with this aircraft carrier returning to the region on this unscheduled trip, a direct response to north korean provocations is the flexing of some hustle. this is a message clearly being sent by washington to pyongyang, it comes on the heels of other strong messages. you have white house officials saying that when it comes to north korea and the nuclear threat, all options are on the table. you also have u.s. president trump saying that if china won't solve the north korea problem, the u.s. will. and now you see that this aircraft carrier has headed back toward the korean peninsula. again, we have pointed out that this is an aircraft carrier that was in these waters just last month. there for the joint military exercises which will pointed out tend to enrage the north every month. but this time u.s. officials are saying that it is a direct response to north korea's provocation, that of course
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would be the fourth missile test that we've seen from north korea since just the start of this year. >> alex, thank you. will ripley still standing by for us in pyongyang. i'm wondering what kim jong-un have to say about the air strikes on syria, their reflections on that. >> reporter: yeah, you know, as i was saying when we were speaking with officials, they really view the air strikes in syria as an example that north korea should watch. they called the syrian crisis is bloody example that north korea is paying very close attention to and again, they feel that this justifies their development of these weapons of mass destruction. their goal is to have a workable intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the u.s. most say they're not there yet, but they could be there in a matter of just a couple years at the pace they're gone. international sanctions, condemnation, cyberattacks, none of it has really been able to
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stop, perhaps slow a bit, but not stop this country's missile development. and in fact when they see things like the missile strike on syria, officials here say it makes them want to accelerate and move faster to get that weapon ready to go. >> all right. fantastic reporting from you both. will ripley and alexandra field, thank you both. well, let's turn our attention to syria now and the same rebel-held town that was hit by that chemical attack was struck again saturday by conventional weapons generating a lot less outrage it has to be said when 16 civilians were reported killed there. it's not known who dropped the bombs, but only syrian and russian warplanes fly in the air over that part of the country. the timing is noteworthy. renewed air strikes came immediately after the u.s. bombed syrian air field in
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retaliation for that chemical attack. new video by the way shows that that very air field, the one that was hit by tomahawk missiles, is operational again. paula newton is standing by in moscow for russian reaction. but ben wedeman talk to us about shayrat, apparently it's furngsing again and warplanes are taking off from there. >> reporter: yes, and we've seen video of that and i think even president trump referenced it in one of his tweets saying that it's very easy to repair a runway and therefore that is why they didn't hit it. and of course this is the air base from which the strikes it's believed dropped chemical weapons on tuesday morning leaving 89 people killed were launched from. and in the meantime, yes rk, we understand that in the past hour
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it has been struck again by aircraft, probably syrian, possibly russian. we understand in that case there were no casualties. however, in another town yesterday, 19 people were killed. and today two people were killed. and so fact of the matter is that even though we're focusing so intensely on this chemical attack, there has been an industrial scale blood bath going on for the last six years. by my calculations, there have been 4500 if you multiply it, that's what you got over the last six years. so certainly it's laudable that the united states and the west is focusing on this one particular incident, but this has been going on day after day for years and the international
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community has been largely indifferent. >> and ben, just stand by for a moment. i want to get to paula newton because we heard from the u.s. ambassador to the nikki haley, she had an interesting answer when asked about what the u.s. policy is vis-a-vis bashar al assad. let's listen. >> is regime change in syria now the official policy of the united states? >> so there is multiple priorities. getting assad out is not the only priority. what wreer te're try doing is obviously defeat isis. secondly, we don't see a peaceful syria with assad in there. thirdly, get the iranian influence out. at the end of the day, this is a complicated situation. there are no easy answers and a political solution will have to
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happen. but we know that it is not going to be -- there is not any sort of option where a political solution will lap with assad at the head of the regime. if you along at his actions, if you look at the situation, it will be lard to see a government that is peaceful and stable with assad. >> of course it's hard to, but is it the position of the trump administration that he cannot be ruler of syria anymore, regime change is the policy? >> regime change is something that we think is going to happen because at all of the parties will see that assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for syria. >> paula, what was the reaction to that? clearly moscow doesn't want to hear anything about regime change inside syria, they firmly support of regime of bashar al assad. >> reporter: absolutely. and in a few seconds there nikki haley did a laundry list of what would take years to accomplish on the ground and having said
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that, most of it would be against russia's interests. we ahead the head of the foreign relations council calling a spade a spade, there is a direct sabotage in his words of the international community's efforts to start a process of political negotiations between the authorities and the opposition. what he's trying to say is that look, we've been at the table now for the last 18 months. it is completely unrealistic for nikki haley to come out and try in his words sabotage what russia claims is a productive negotiation already going on at the table. but what is clear here is that the united states along with its am lies are tallying are tryinge parameters of what political process will look like going forward. they do not believe assad has a role. >> all right. thanks very much, paula newton in moscow, ben wedeman on the turkey/syria border.
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thanks very much. let me bring you up-to-date on a breaking news story. very few detail, but it is a repeat of some of the attacks we've seen against coptic churches in the past. media in egypt are saying there has been an explosion at a church in tanta. there has been some instability in that part of the country. there are reports of casualties before we're waiting for more information on that for you. we're also waiting a statement from egypt's interior ministry. y but we have seen in the last few years in egypt repeated attacks against coptic churches and coptic civilian populations. chair of contemporary middle east at the london school of economics and also the author of a book on isis joining me now from london. so just before we get to the
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syria news, these attacks on coptic churches, we're seeing more and more of them in egypt, the coptic population inside egypt is extremely nervous and one could understand why. >> well, first of all, the cops in egypt represent about 10% of the population of egypt. it's a sizable community. and you're right, there have been several attacks systemic attacks against coptic churches and coptic symbols of worship in egypt, the latest was the cathedral in cairo in which dozens were killed and injured. the attacks in egypt represent an attack against the as sisi administration and against the legitimacy and symbol of the as sisi administration. the militants attacking the coptic churches are trying to send a message clear and loud that the as sisi administration
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cannot protect its minority, that trying to undermine the legitimacy of as sisi and multiple insurgencies going on in egypt, so an attack against the very legitimacy and symbols of president as sisi to undermine his presidency and show the world that he cannot protect one of his big communities in egypt. >> and we're waiting to hear on these reports of casualties, waiting for the interior ministry as well to issue a statement regarding this particular attack. let's turn our attention back to syria. you may have heard the sound bite that we ran with the u.s. ambassador to the u.n., nikki haley, she was asked about regime change. she didn't exactingly say that the u.s. policy was to pursue regime change in syria, but essentially that all parties would soon realize that bashar al assad cannot stay the commander in chief, the leader of syria. however rex tillerson the u.s. secretary of state when asked a couple of days after the strike
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if there is a change in u.s.'s policy toward syria, he said no change. so it doesn't sound like they're singing from the same hymn sheet. what do you make of that? >> this is an administration full of conflicts. when the secretary of state was asked, he said our first and foremost priority is to defeat isis. after we defeat isis, we'll pay more attention to syria and we try to resolve the syrian conflict. he didn't say militarily regime change, but he said political transition in syria means the end of the assad regime as we know it. this is a very complex situation. it's been six years. assad is there to stay. russia is the most dominant powers. the reality is, the question on the table for all of us, what is the end game of the trump administration after the attack against shayrat? if the end game is to deter
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assad from using chemical weapons in the future, i think this particular message has been received. i doubt it very much if assad will ever use chemical weapons given the determination of the trump administration to carry out military attention. but the attack itself does not change the complex dynamics on the ground. >> what is the end game though? i have to jump in. this is everyone's question. we don't have the answer is what you're saying. is the end game to stop assad from using chemical weapons? so the u.s. took care of that accordinged according what you're saying. is the end game to support a political transition that could keep elements of the regime in place but just remove assad as a figure head, that is option two. option three is complete regime change. in other words, the group in power now gone and replaced with another group. i mean, there are so many potential options and so many different ways to read nikki haley's answer to that question. >> and also if you also read what the secretary of state said, he made it very clear the
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strategic priority is to defeat isis, it's not to regime change at this particular moment. even he did not use the question regime change. if you read carefully what haley said, she said basically assad cannot rule syria because he has so much blood on his hands. the question again to come back, there is no political clarity. all of us keep saying what is the strategic road map of the trump administration. i'm very skeptical not because -- i mean, i oppose donald trump, but he is a salesman, impulsive, incoherent, full of contradictions, he's fascinated with power. he does not appreciate the complexity of the syrian conflict. how can you talk about regime change in syria while the balance of power now favors assad and the iranians. you say -- haley if you listen to what she said, she said we want assad out, we want to end the iranian presence in syria.
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how are you going to do it, miss haley? what are the measuamerican inve inside syria. >> and also what do you replace this government with. certainly there is no viable right now group that could fill any vacuum there. we know what groups fill vacuums when they emerge in syria. as you mentioned, so complicated. we'll be speaking with you again hopefully with more on the news in syria and the wider region as we've been reporting that breaking news out of egypt with a coptic christian church targeted once again by what we understand is some sort of explosive device or a bocmb. coming up, president trump tells congress in he decided to take military action in syria. we'll have that. stay with us.
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welcome back. following our breaking news out of egypt and also of course the aftermath of the u.s. strike on a syrian air base. just looking at the map to get a better sense of tanta and its relation to cairo.
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it's about i want to say 100 kilometers probably from cairo in the nile delta. there has been an attack on an egyptian coptic christian church there. we understand it was some sort of improvised explosive device or some sort of bomb that targeted that church. this of course sadly not the first time that the christian coptic community in egypt has been targeted. we are awaiting a statement from the interior ministry. we're not sure what the casualty numbers are at this stage. but just a few months ago, there was an attack on a church as well closer to cairo targeting the coptic christian community. we'll have more on that as we get it. with our other news, hannah, just one moment, i'll hearing from our producer 13 people killed. and this is according to the government source, luke? we have 13 people -- so egyptian state run newspaper quoting a number of 13. 13 people killed in this
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egyptian coptic church attack. dozens wounded. we're waiting for official word from the interior ministry and we'll of course bring you that when we get it. but a high death toll here so far. more details when we get them. hannah, with the rest of the news back to you in london. >> thanks very much. now, the u.s. president is telling congress why he ordered last week's missile strike on that syrian air base. mr. trump sent a letter to house speaker paul ryan and senator orrin hatch saying i directed this action in order to degrade the syrian military's ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons. he goes on to say thereby promotings stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region's current humanitariantastropcatastrophe.
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nikki haley says president trump won't son at air strikes if more needs to be done. let's speak to scott lieu characterization professor of international politics at the university of birmingham and founder and editor of ea world view. let's talk about this letter to congress. does president trump first of all need to have congressional approval if he wants to follow through on that threat, that promise of doing more if more needs to be done? >> we've seen decades of u.s. presidents saying they don't need that authority for air strikes. whether they need it or not for full scale ground operations is a different matter. but with air strikes, you think about ronald reagan's attacks on libya in 1986, you can think about the clinton administration's attacks on iraq in the 1990s before the 2003 iraq war. and of course you can think about a whole series of manned and unmanned drone attacks on various targets around the
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world. so i don't think there will be a showdown in a legal sense if we have just a limited expansion of air strikes especially if the official line is they are just to degrade the chemical ability. the question is if the assad regime and russia continue widespread conventional attacks on civilian areas, which it appears that they are going to do, how does the trump administration respond and at that point would they need to go to congress. >> and of course over the end game of the united states, hala gorani has been asking all of our guests, do you accept that this administration is full of contradictions as far as what the secretary of state is saying and u.s. ambassador to the u.n. is saying? >> i do. the baseline here is that where everyone can agree in the trump administration is that they want to ensure that there is no repetition of chemical attacks. but beyond that, there is complete disagreement. and you can't look to trump for
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answers. as your previous guest said before the break, he's not coherent, he doesn't have a deep knowledge of what is going on. you have two camp, one is the pentagon and national security council who want a further line with the assad regime, but are they really saying that they are going to take on the assad regime if it continues conventional bombing to the point of supporting the opposition to remove assad from power. that is the sticking point. on the other side -- >> and this is the main of will -- go ahead. >> on the other side you have trurd officials like steve bannon, although he has formally been sidelined from the security council are arguing against any type of action against assad regime, were opposed everyone to the air strikes last friday and they will continue their opposition to any ramping up of u.s. action. >> okay. we have to leave it there. great to get your reactions on the situation on capitol hill of course and of course what is happening in syria on the ground as we would. scott, thank you. >> thank you.
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well, hannah, we'll take a quick break. when we come barks the u.s. missile strike in syria, could it be sending a message in fact to other countries like north korea. we'll be looking at that. and we'll have the very latest as well on that attack against the christian church in egypt, state run media saying 13 people killed. we'll be right back. i'm only in my 60's. i've got a nice long life ahead. big plans. so when i found out medicare doesn't pay all my medical expenses, i looked at my options. then i got a medicare supplement insurance plan. [ male announcer ] if you're eligible for medicare, you may know it only covers about 80% of your part b medical expenses. the rest is up to you. call now and find out about an aarp medicare supplement insurance plan, insured by unitedhealthcare insurance company. like all standardized medicare supplement insurance plans,
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more now out of tanta, a coptic church targeted.
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state run media in egypt are saying 13 people were killed, dozens more wounded. it is sunday today, there would have been a service there with more people than other days during the week obviously and this is not the first time that the coptic christian community has been targeted. last december there was also an attack, a tnt bomb attack against a chapel adjoining a cathedral in cairo killing 25 people. militants obviously trying to send a message that the government of el sisi cannot protect its minority community, coptic crist unions representing about 10% of the pop ligs. b population. ben wedeman is in southern turkey with more there on this church attack. the undercurrent of this is this ongoing sort of not very covered war between islamic militants
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and the government of el sisi, the military government. >> reporter: that's correct. and it's not only sunday today, it is palm sunday. so that church was absolutely jam-packed. fan ta tanta high schoolas a large chr population, obviously many of them were at that church at the time of the blast. and what is interesting is one arabic channel was actually broadcasting live from that church at the time of the explosion. and of course their signal disappeared after that. and yes, as you mentioned, this has been a very difficult period for eghiypegypt's christian min. there was the attack in december on the church st. peter and st. paul. and in february, we saw dozens of christian families fleeing
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from a town in the northern sinai where they had been targeted by isis. so it's a difficult time for christians. and i suspect the death toll as is often the case in egypt, it starts off small, but it may increase as the day goes on. and of course let's not forgets that at the end of this month, pope francis is coming to egypt. so this may be something that the vatican is taking into consideration. so a difficult time in egypt. >> and in other parts of the world as well where they -- other parts of the region i should say. what has been the reaction of the christian community to all of this, who are they turning to for protection as they feel more and more vulnerable? >> reporter: the irony is that following the ouster in summer of 2013 and his replacement by el sisi, many of the cops felt
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that this new military hunta which has been transformed into a government would be the protector of the christian minority. but increasingly they are angry, they are feeling that the government has not done enough, is really just paying lip service to the fears of the christians as they increasingly come under attack. and certainly what we saw when these dozens of christian families left in the sinai was real anger that this government of el sisi is not doing what should be done to protect them. and we've seen it before. for instance the church that was bombed in december, apparently the security had sort of stepped away from their post to have breakfast, thoo the level -- the professionalism of the egyptian security that is protecting churches and other christian facilities is far below the
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mark. >> right. all right, thanks very much, ben wedeman there in turkey with more on that coptic christian church attack with 13 people reported killed, many more wounded. 42 wounded in that church blast. but you as ben mentioned of course this is a preliminary death toll. it is palm sunday, the surchurc would have been packed. the christian coptic community in egypt feeling very vulnerable and one can very much understand why with a lot of feof anfear ar running through that community. we'll have more out of egypt and of course reaction to the u.s. air strike onyrian air base after a break. hannah, back to you. very busy morning here at cnn. we have another top story that we want to recap for you right now. a u.s. aircraft carrier-led
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strike group is currently cruising toward the korean peninsula. this just days after north korea test fired another missile. it also follows the u.s. of course hitting a syrian air base with missiles of its own. cnn military analyst colonel rick francona spoke to us earlier about what this means for pyongyang. >> there is not just an aircraft carrier, it's an entire strike group going there. so it's quite potent and it does send the message to north korea that we are serious about defending our allies in the area. it comes at a time though as you say right after this strike on syria. so the north koreans have to be watching us and they realize maybe donald trump means what he says when he says if you do something, i will react. >> and i'm joined by distinguished professor emeritus. when you consider the options on
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the table, what do you think is the most likely response? would it be words, would it be perhaps more missile tests or even does he have it in his arsenal to carry out some sort of military strike against u.s. aggressi aggression? >> april is celebration for north koreans. april has in the first day of north korea and also has founding anniversary of north korea's peoples army. if north korea has been showing some kind of military event such as the launching of aboutballis missiles or nuclear testing, it is very likely for north korea to undertake those kind of ent s events despite pressures from the united states. >> so you're saying there would be the usual displays of military strength from pyongyang any qway just because we happeno be in the month of april but not
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unusual, nothing more given this u.s. navy deployment? >> if north korea could take it as routine maneuver on the part of the united states, but i personally hope that north korea would take oppose and find some other solutions with the united states. if north korea continues to show the kinds of provocative behavior, the situation on the korean peninsula will get worse. >> what do you think may have been agreed between president xi of china and president trump of the united states when they met just a few days ago with regards to north korea and future policy? >> i personally believe that they failed to reach agreement on how to deal with the north korea nuke cleeclear issue. apparently president trump has been emphasizing the importance
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of chinese role in putting pressure on north korea to give up the nuclear weapons. but president xi -- i feel they failed to accomplish an agreement. >> so what does south korea where you are, what does south korea really want? is this show of strength from the united states enough to stop kim and his nuclear ambitions? >> it is not. south koreans would welcome american show of strength against north korea. but south korea would not want any kind of military action by the united states and subsequent escalation on the korean peninsula because south koreans will fall prey to the victims of collateral damage of the american military action. therefore koreans bound on the american military posture.
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>> concern about that collateral damage as you said across korean peninsula. thank you very much indeed for joining us. now still to come on "cnn newsroom," police and protesters face off after another shocking decision by president madura. stay with us for more on that. hey allergy muddlers
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welcome back, everybody. more on our breaking news out of egypt as we continue of course to follow the aftermath of that air strike on syria. we understand from an egyptian media, there has been an attack on a coptic church in the city of tanta north of cairo, a christian coptic church there. state media reporting 13 dead, dozens more wounded. we're waiting a statement from the interior ministry, but for the coptic community, this is a terrible blow once again after a
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similar attack in cairo on a church there, a chapel adjoining a cathedral. today is sunday, it is in fact palm sunday which means that the church would have been absolutely packed on this day with worshippers. we are seeing some about chaotic kreens of cour scenes in the aftermath of that attack. we'll bring them to you as soon as we get them. hannah is in thin london with o news. we'll turn to sweden of course after the deadly attack in the country's capital on kile than a dozen wounded when this truck plowed through a busy street in stockholm. police say the suspect is known to intelligence services. on saturday would sweden's king his country to seek peace.
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>> translator: we have experienced other violence acts bfd before and we have survived it then and we will also survive it now. sweden is and has for a long time been and shall continue to be a safe and peaceful country. >> so venezuela now where anger is growing against the government on the streets of caracas a, protesters were shouting down nicolas madura as a dictator. the police shot tear gas canisters into the crowd which can some protesters then threw back. mr. madura banned an opposition leader. this is the latest show of outrage against president madura's government and the opposition is speaking out. rafael romo has the details. >> reporter: saturday's clashes were due in part to the effect that the government has banned a very popular opposition leader from doing any political work. thousands of people were marching down one of the main
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thoroughfares in caracas toward the capital downtown where most national government buildings are located. at one point they were stopped by the national guard. opposition lawmaker described the moment to cnn saying tear gas bombs started raining on us. former presidential candidate was told friday he can no longer do any political activity. said the show of force was unnecessary. >> translator: this is refregs, this is a crime. they're committing crimes and violating human rights by stepping on the rights of people. the government has staged a self coup and what they are doing to me is part of it. >> reporter: this is the fifth consecutive day of protests. demonstrators are also protesting the supreme court which issued a ruling stripping the parliament of legislative power and giving to itself. the court reversed its decision after widespread condemnation and three days of protests.
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earlier this week social list president nicolas madura described the protesters as terrorists and vandals. >> translator: we have them all identified. they're all identified. they will fall one by one and they will go straight to face justice. >> reporter: the president said 30 people had been detained, but a human rights group reported saturday there had been 164 detentions since tuesday. venezuela is faces a deep humanitarian crisis sparked by an economic meltdown. shortages of basic food products and medicines are ghcommon plac. the electoral council has delayed and blocked efforts to carry out elections. rafael romo, cnn, atlanta. still to come this hour, donald trump now supports military action in syria after vehemently opposing intervention just a few years ago. so what has changed his mind? that story coming up next.
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welcome back. an update on our breaking news out of egypt in tanta, an industrial town north of cairo, there has been an attack on a
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christian coptic church. we understand 15 people thousand kille now killed, the death toll has risen. it is palm sunday today.sand now killed, the death toll has risen. it is palm sunday today. this church would have been packed with worshippers. and we understand some sort of explosive device, a bomb attack targeting this church. we'll have more at the top of the hour. but back to the story of the aftermath of the u.s. strike on the syrian air base. for many years donald trump said he opposed any military reaction, that his main priority is isis. now the u.s. president openly admits that he has changed his attitude. why? here is brianna keilar. >> reporter: president trump has long said the u.s. should keep to itself. >> i'm not, and i don't want to be the president of the world, i'm the president of the united states. >> reporter: that was before his decision to attack syria in
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response to horrific pictures of a chemical weapons attack on civilians there. >> tonight i ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in syria from where the chemical attack was launched. these heinous actions by the assad regime cannot be tolerated. my attitude toward syria and assad has changed very much. >> reporter: in fact it has completely reversed. in 2013 when it was first confirmed the syrian government was using chemical weapons on its own people and pictures came to light of an attack much like the o the ones we've seen this week, president trump weighed whether to make good on an earlier threat. >> a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. >> reporter: at the time trump tweeted opposing the action. to our foolish leader, do not
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attack syria. if you do, many very bad things will happen and from that fight the u.s. gets nothing. there is no up side and tremendous down side. and he told cnn -- >> let isis and syria fight. let are ush srussia fight isis. >> reporter: then thursday an about-face. >> it is in the national security interests of the united states to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. >> reporter: and trump's decision to strike syria was a unilateral one after once saying don't go to alone approach. the president must get congressional approval. big mistake if he does not. president obama was ultimately unable to and scrapped plans to strike syria until 2014 when
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arab countries also participated in military action. but perhaps this is also classic trump, championing the element of surprise in foreign policy. >> i'm not saying i'm doing anything one way or the other. >> reporter: and obsessed with appearing strong. >> if president obama's goal had been to weaken america, he could not have done a better job. >> reporter: it also changed the na narrative long plaguing the trump administration, the drip, drip, drip about his campaign officials ties to russia and meetings offeren not disclosed during and after when russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. brianna keilar, cnn, washington.
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